Why look for human obesity genes

The discovery of human obesity genes will undoubtedly lead to health benefits. Firstly some obesity syndromes are very severe, occur at a young age and are associated with other developmental and clinical manifestations. It is clear that knowledge of the underlying genetic defect in these syndromes will be of considerable clinical benefit in terms of recognising other treatable aspects of the particular syndrome and providing more informed genetic counseling. As illustrated by congenital leptin deficiency (see below) the precise identification of some of these syndromes may turn out to have therapeutic relevance.

Secondly, human genetics can be an important tool to aid understanding of the molecular pathways controlling energy homeostasis in humans and thereby to clarify the relevance of such pathways as targets for pharmacological intervention.

Thirdly, and most speculatively, it is possible that by recognizing common genetic variants which predispose to obesity through different mechanisms, we can classify obese subjects into subgroups that might have different responses to specific diets and/or exercise regimes, drugs or surgery.

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